Buying beer at the Ark can be a cumbersome process. First you must buy an Ark membership, then wait in what can be a long line to select, order, and collect your beer from a volunteer barkeep. So it’s only natural that when volunteers suggested the music venue above Main Street should carry more Michigan brews, the process of choosing which ones also took a long time. Starting in the spring, the committee considered possibilities; volunteers were then asked to taste and rate almost a dozen choices. More beer tastings followed. Then the venue had to work with its distributors and use up its existing inventory of the beers that are being booted: Bass, Guinness Stout, Heineken, Blue Moon, and Bell’s Porter, which despite its Michigan lineage apparently was not a strong seller. (Several more popular Bell’s brews were retained.)
The made-in-Michigan newcomers will debut in late September or early October: Arbor Brewing’s Red Snapper and Brasserie Blonde, Founders Porter from Grand Rapids, Michigan Brewing’s Celis White, and New Holland Poet Stout. Adding further variety is a “beer of the month.” The first one: Dark Horse Brewing Co.’s Raspberry Ale from Marshall. “There may be more changes at some point,” said Alison Reed, the Ark’s volunteer and house manager. “There are so many good things in Michigan.”
The changes are important since memberships–often bought so patrons can sip beer or wine during shows–bring in one-tenth of the Ark’s $2 million in revenues. And you don’t have to be committed to microbrews to enjoy the club’s acoustic music. “We didn’t want to eliminate everything people are familiar with,” Reed says, so they’ll still serve Labatt Blue, Grolsch–and Bud Lite.